BURT HALL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The right wing of the Republican Party no longer has the leadership or agenda to gain the presidency through a popular vote. Instead, it is relying on ruthless obstruction of the party in power, slowing down economy and voter suppression. The right wing will continue on this path until the American people put a stop to it and remove this cancer from our politics.
After much campaigning and political infighting, we elect a president every four years. These elections provide legitimacy to a new or continued administration. Traditionally, most Americans and their elected representatives in Congress have pulled together and supported a newly elected president, especially in times of crisis. This tradition was broken in a big way during the 1990's.
The Clinton Administration
Republicans owned the White House for twelve years before President Clinton's election and were outraged at the loss of the presidency. Clinton was seen as a usurper, his victory illegitimate and he had to be driven from the White House. To accomplish this, he had to be brought down.
As a result, right-wing members of the political establishment and business, legal and church communities collectively mounted covert efforts and baseless investigations to disable the Clinton administration and remove him from office. When their efforts did not succeed they replaced a highly reputable Independent Counsel with an inexperienced one (Ken Starr) who became their designated point man to bring down the presidency.
Among the baseless investigations were Travel Gate, Whitewater Gate, Hillary Rose Gate, misuse of FBI Files, and the murder of a top White House aide. The investigations were allowed to drag on during Clinton's entire two terms in office and were not terminated until he left office. More than $100 million of taxpayer money was wasted trying to bring down a duly elected President.
Paralleling these efforts was a protracted right-wing conspiracy. The right-wing: (1) manipulated our judiciary system to convert a sexual slander suit against one of its own magazines to an unwarranted sexual harassment suit against the President, (2) used that suit to set up a perjury trap, (3) convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to allow this disruptive civil suit to go forward on a sitting president, (4) used false information to force the Justice Department to authorize an independent investigation and (5) broke two federal laws in the process. The Dean of American Journalism, David Broder, characterized the Supreme Court decision this way:
"One of the great blunders of American history ... one of the dumbest decisions in the long history of the Court ...when they decided that a President should have no immunity against civil suits while serving in office, they may have broken their own record for ignoring reality."
As Ken Starr's investigation was nearing completion, right-wing leaders in the House spun into action. They decided on totally partisan hearings without witnesses. Four hundred historians and four hundred and thirty law professors warned House leaders against violating their constitutional responsibilities to impeach the President. Ignoring their advice, the House railroaded an illegitimate impeachment during a lame duck session before public opposition and a newly elected Congress could stop it.
To get the necessary votes, the right wing blackmailed House members. For example, the right wing threatened House members with the loss of their chairmanships, threatened to cut off their campaign funding and threatened to provide strong challenges in their next congressional races.
House leaders responsible for the abuses of power and constitutional violations are no longer in Congress. Three resigned in disgrace because of personal indiscretions or violations of office (Gingrich, Livingston and DeLay). Two of them had or were having extra-marital affairs. Two key players who drove the impeachment process (Ken Starr and Henry Hyde) have since acknowledged regret. But, the right wing did accomplish its mission – a transfer of power back to its own party.
The Bush Administration
The improper transfer of power disrupted what had been the nation's top priorities at the time: (1) bolstering the economy, (2) balancing federal budgets and (3) capturing Bin Laden and dismantling his al-Qaeda network. Bin Laden had already declared war twice on the United States and attacked us several times. Nine months later the 9/11 catastrophe changed the course of history.
Bin Laden's plans had leaked out to other countries during the spring and summer before the 9/11 attacks. They were relayed to the U.S. by three Heads of State (Prime Minster Blair, President Putin of Russia and the King of Jordan), and by other foreign countries. Despite the CIA Director's frantic briefings, the White House took no action.
The 9/11 Commission feared that both the Bush administration and the right-wing media would undermine its report. It omitted substantial evidence incriminating the White House -- including the warnings cited above. This extended the White House cover-up and permitted Bush's reelection. The Commission did conclude that Congress "took too little action to address the emerging terrorism threat." Several key officials, including two 9/11 Commissioners, have since acknowledged White House responsibility for 9/11. In addition to the huge loss of human life, the cost of the 9/11 catastrophe is estimated at about $3.3 trillion.
The CIA had provided the right information on 9/11 to the White House, but Vice-President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had rejected it. To compensate for this serious breach of national security, the President's national security team immediately overreacted with not one but two unnecessary wars. The same two (Cheney and Rumsfeld) who ignored the 9/11 warnings are the ones that gave the American people false information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. International inspectors on the ground in Iraq confirmed this false data in a preliminary report to the U.N. before the invasion. The administration then forced them to leave Iraq before they could complete their work by bombing and invading the country.
The Afghan war was totally unnecessary too. During transition, President Clinton had left with the new administration a bold plan to surgically dispose of Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network (without going to war) as soon as the FBI confirmed responsibility for the recent USS Cole attack. That plan became a "victim of not invented here" and time spent on right-wing administration's pet policies, according to a Time Magazine's cover story on the secret history of 9/11.
The two needless wars will cost our nation over $4 trillion. At this point the right wing has added 7 trillion dollars to our national debt without having improved our national security.
In addition, other enormous setbacks were suffered by the nation during the right wing's two terms in office. For example, world opinions of the U.S. changed from great admiration to almost universal dislike and distrust. The two needless wars expanded the sea of hatred and deep-seated rage in the Muslim world and there was a massive increase in world-wide terrorism. Now, we have surveillance of U.S. citizen communications to help protect us from terrorist attacks. This surveillance program probably would not exist today had there not been a serious breach of national security leading up to 9/11 or had we not entered into two unnecessary wars.
The Obama Administration
Having once regained the White House by undermining the people's choice of president, the right-wing is now repeating this same strategy against the Obama administration. On the first night of his presidency, four and a half years ago, the right wing held a special meeting and decided not to work with the new Democrat President.
For example, the right wing used silent congressional filibusters to prevent votes on legislation to improve our condition. There is an unprecedented right-wing disinformation machine and across-the-board obstruction of the President's nominees to head Executive Branch operations and fill judicial vacancies. And, in a frantic endeavor to again regain power, voter suppression of democrats has been the order of the day in Republican-controlled states. The right-wing obsession with investigations of a President has returned with a passion.
Disapearrance of Moderates
The great moderates of the last century are no longer welcomed in the Republican Party. They worked across the aisle and moved the country forward in perilous times. Now they are an endangered species. For example, Republican Senator Vandenberg fought against his party's isolationism leading up to World War II and then participated in creating the Marshall Plan to put Europe back on its feet. Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith did something that not even the Republican President would do. She challenged McCarthyism openly on the Senate floor although he was a member of her own party.
William Cohen was an outstanding Republican House Representative and Senator and was picked by President Clinton to run the Defense Department. Retired moderate Senator, Chuck Hagel refused to go along with the right wing of his party, retired from Congress, and the President has put him in charge of the Defense Department. Moderate Republican Senator George Voinovich saved Cleveland from default as Mayor, made Ohio the number one state in the nation as Governor and served two terms in the U.S. Senate. After his retirement, he said his party's attitude is "We're going to get what we want or the country can go to hell".
When Republican moderates had major influence in Congress during the 20th century and worked with Democrats, America's exceptionalism steadily increased; when they were exiled and suppressed in the new century, America's exceptionalism steadily declined.
If the two-party system is ever going to work again, Republican moderates must be allowed to reenter their party and return to leadership positions. However, this change is no longer possible in the House because the right-wing has redrawn House district lines in Republican-controlled states to (1) pack minorities in a few districts and (2) make other districts unwinnable by either Republican moderates or Democrat candidates. In the 2012 election, for example, Democrats won Pennsylvania State's popular vote but Republicans picked up 13 seats and Democrats only five.
As a result of these new district lines, the right wing may control the House of Representatives for the foreseeable future unless the public intervenes. Future Democrat presidents similarly will be stymied by brutal obstruction. Once out of power, the Democrats Party may retaliate. Who loses – the American people.
There is no chance that the right wing will work with any Democrat administration until there is widespread opposition at the ballot box to its strategy of undermining and obstructing duly elected presidents before they even begin their administrations. The President and the media must tell the public why our government is so dysfunctional and why the American people are the only ones who can fix it and stop the war on on our democracy. The President's new Commission on voting can change the process but can't educate the public on how to use it. It's up to the President and the media to outline the consequences to the nation of voting to support an obstructionist party or not voting at all.
The solution is for eligible voters to show up at the voting booth in primaries when selecting candidates and in general elections when choosing their representative. They would (1) reward those politicians who work together to find common ground and solve major problems and (2) reject those politicians who choose party over country and the public good. No one other than the American people can achieve this and remove the cancer from our politics.
In the 2014 mid-term elections, the American people should decide what kind of government they want and what kind of country they want to live in. Hostility toward the democratic values of reason, compromise and conciliation must be eradicated so that Republicans and Democrats can work together in enacting meaningful legislation. The culture in Congress must be changed. In the long run, a stronger more competitive Republican Party is best for our country and will keep the Democratic Party on its toes. As retired moderate Senator John Warner recently said, "The strength of America's political system rests in the strength of having two viable, strong parties in stiff competition."
The bottom line is a Republican Party that includes moderates will allow our country to go forward. A Republican Party that excludes them and is dominated by the right wing will perpetuate the status quo or take us backward again.
Consequences of Inaction
The most immediate dangers of doing nothing are (1) blockage by the House of Representatives of important legislation, such as for jobs, rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and immigration reform, and (2) right-wing control in 2014 of either the House or Senate -- or both.
If the American people do not seek a change in our politics, the long-term dangers will be a return to an unacceptable foreign policy, more wars, a weakened economy, high deficits, an inability to sustain a strong middle class, a further shift of political power to the wealthy, a further obsolescence of our nation's infrastructure, less effort to address energy alternatives and climate change, less gun safety, the end of universal health care, a smaller safety net for those dangerously in need, more income inequality, and less emphasis on the education of current and future generations.
Some other reasons why the President and the media must educate the public on this subject are:
To get Americans citizens more involved in our democracy.
To pave the way for future presidents to do what the people elected them to do. "Politics" is often the reason given for failure to move the country forward. It's time to directly confront that issue and change the course of history.
To refocus congressional attention on the nation's priorities such as job creation, deficit reduction and rebuilding our nation's infrastructure.
During the cold war, President John Kennedy made his epic speech on searching for peace at American University. The President may want to use the same kind of environment in an attempt to remove the cancer from our system of politics.
After early careers in private industry, Burt Hall joined the U.S. General Accountability Office where he served as group director analyst on national security and other matters. He was loaned twice for two years, once to a bipartisan congressional commission and later to the Reagan White House. He is a WW II veteran and has voted for several Republican Presidents.